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6 Underrated Destinations In Mexico To Avoid The Tourist Crowds

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Summer is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and while most people are flocking to Europe and popular beach destinations in Mexico – like Cancun and Los Cabos – others are wanting to find alternative options that are just as beautiful but won’t be as crowded. 

There are many underrated destinations in Mexico waiting to be discovered, with a variety of landscapes and sites to be seen. From beaches to mountains and jungles to waterfalls, there is something for everyone.

If you are looking to avoid the tourist crowds, then here are the best Off Path destinations that Mexico has to offer:

Mazunte, Pacific Ocean, Mexico

1. El Cuyo

Located in the often underrated state of Yucatán, El Cuyo is a small beach town that can be reached by either a 2.5-hour drive from Cancun or a 3-hour drive from Mérida. It is untouched by large hotel chains with a laid-back atmosphere making it the perfect place to disconnect and unwind. 

While you’re there you can rent bikes to find flamingos, stroll the long white sand beach, take a kite-boarding lesson, or eat some delicious meals at popular local restaurants – Naia Cafe or La Casa Palma. 

It’s a great alternative to more well-known destinations like Isla Holbox or Tulum and is often quoted to be similar to these areas before they were overdeveloped. 

El Cuyo, Yucatan, Mexico

2. Sisal

Sisal is a charming Pueblo Magico beach town, only a 1-hour drive from Mérida, making it a popular weekend getaway for locals. It has a beautiful unspoiled beach with calm waters that are great for kayaking and paddle boarding.

If you’re looking for a place to relax, eat fresh seafood, and get lost in a book, then Sisal is the place for you. Book a day at the Palmar Beach Club or a stay at the stunning Club de Patos, a boutique hotel with an on-site spa and restaurant.

For the adventurous types, there are many day trip options in the region where you can visit cenotes, Mayan ruins, and local wildlife. 

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Sisal Beach and Pier, Yucatan, Mexico

3. Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo, or Zihua as it’s affectionately called by locals, is on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero. It is only an hour's flight from Mexico City or a three-hour flight from LAX. Zihua circles around a small bay enclosed by mountains providing some stunning views of its sandy beaches and quiet fishing town.

The name Zihuatanejo comes from the Nahuatl language meaning “the place of beautiful women”. In local folklore, it is said that goddesses would rise in the afternoon to carry the sun into the dark realm of the dead. You might guess then that between the town’s geography and its folklore, it is one of the best spots to catch a sunset. It’s an underrated destination you definitely don’t want to miss out on. 

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. Mexico. North America

While there you can spend your days strolling popular beach La Ropa or take a day trip on a little fishing boat over to Playa Las Gatas. Both are known for their calm waters and are dotted with seaside restaurants that are perfect for families and solo travelers alike. 

One of the best secret spots of Zihua is the Parthenon of “El Negro”. Originally owned by a corrupt chief of police from Mexico City during the late 70s, it was built as an extravagant vacation home in the style of the Greek Parthenon. It now sits abandoned and is located high atop a hill giving perfect views of the town below.

While it’s not officially open to the general public, you can sometimes find the property caretaker there who will give you a tour for an unofficial fee. 

Girl Looks out to Ocean View at El Negro Parthenon, Zihuatanejo Mexico

4. Mazunte

If you’re looking for a relaxed beach town with a more hippie, surf atmosphere then Mazunte is for you. Only an hour's drive south of the more well-known beach town of Puerto Escondido, Mazunte is home to great beaches, yoga, and eco-tourism. 

This sleepy town is best for those who want to disconnect and slow right down. There is not a lot to do besides stroll the beaches, enjoy a good book, or take a sunrise yoga class. This is all by design and adds to the charm of Mazunte. 

Playa Rinconcito is the best spot for swimming as it is located in a protected cove, and Playa Mermejita offers a quiet wide beach dotted with restaurants that is ideal for contemplative walks. 

Another must-see is Punta Cometa, considered a healing place; it is said that in pre-Hispanic times it was a ceremonial center and may contain buried Aztec treasure. It is only accessible by a 20-minute hike along an unpaved trail. There are no services there, so make sure to prepare accordingly. 

Punta Cometa Beach, Mazunte Mexico

5. Tepoztlán

Legend has it that Tepoztlán, a town an hour and a half south of Mexico City, is the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl – the Aztec serpent god. Labeled as one of 132 Pueblos Magicos, it is one of the top places for wellness in Mexico and is full of cute hotels and beautiful architecture. 

This ancient town lies nestled in a sacred valley and is home to the main attraction, the archeological site of El Tepozteco. This uniquely positioned site at the top of the valley requires a steep hike to see it. However, it is well worth the climb for both the views at the top and the Coati (a native raccoon-like species) you might see along the way. 

One of the most popular things to do in Tepoztlán is to join a Temazcal ceremony. Similar to an American sweat lodge, these ceremonies are said to purify both the body and mind. Whether you go for a personal wellness retreat or just to escape the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in local culture, there is something for everyone in this quaint mountain town. 

View of Tepoztlán's church Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, a focal point of the city

6. San Luis Potosí

San Luis Potosi is an Off Path destination located in central Mexico, just 5 hours north of Mexico City. It is the perfect place to escape the crowds and take in the state's stunning nature. 

Originally a silver mining town, San Luis Potosí remains one of Mexico’s highest cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers a well-preserved colonial center with several large art museums and is a great jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding attractions. 

Edward James Garden Surrealist Sculpture, San Luis Potosi

One of the most popular places to go is Edward James’ Surrealist Garden. Located in the jungle on a hillside, Las Pozas is a unique space filled with 40 concrete structures and an array of pools and waterfalls. Visitors can get a guided tour for a small fee to learn about the history and the architecture.  

Another favorite excursion is the region of Huasteca Potosina, known for its natural pools and waterfalls. The area spans 20 different municipalities and is best explored over several days or with a tour guide. 

Waterfall in Huasteca Potosina, Mexico

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Sunday 30th of July 2023

Just for clarification, Edward James’ Las Pozas is not in Las Pozas (nearer to San Luis Potosi). It is 5.5 hours away, just outside of Xilitla. Someone might infer from the article that Las Pozas in Xilitla is a quick sightseeing destination from SLP. Thanks for the article and the tips.


Tuesday 18th of July 2023

You might consider removing El Cuyo from your next article update.

Flamingos used to hang around El Cuyo but nowadays you will not find them there.

Thanks to articles such as this, the once quiet sleepy village is no longer what it was.

Over the last 2 years, there has been many new building developments and the CFE power supply infrastructure of the growing village is no longer able to keep up with growing demand for electricity.

Nowadays, power failures are a lot more frequent and more prolonged, lasting over 10+ hours (LINK).

There is no municipal water supply for the village.

Waste water is drained into the ground and the same water is pumped back up for use in homes and hotels.

Increasing development in El Cuyo obviously also means more water pollution.

The sargasso seaweed problem that annually plagues the coast Riviera Maya coastline from Cancun to Tulum and beyond is also a seasonal issue for El Cuyo and other Yucatan beaches from around April/May to September/October.

More more thing ... the only ATM machine in El Cuyo frequently does not work.